Hmmm... Wasn't Segovia "self-taught"?
And, gentlepeople, mightn't someone new to the forum reasonably hope for guidance in this matter? Self-teaching is one of the great
traditions of the guitar. And, even with a teacher, we are, each and every one of us, self-taught. The teacher may present the material, they've been there before and can point out the traps, but, at the end of the day, it is up to me to teach me. That is why we have the practice mirror, because practice is when you give yourself a lesson. That person in the mirror, that's your teacher.
Sometimes, it is more than a week between lessons and that is when things get cloudy, cardamomo. That sounds like what you are experiencing. Get your mind back to the moment you left your last lesson and retrace your steps to the practice chair. Forget all the time in between. Take yourself back to that moment. Start with what you can
play, the books will come.
When you are in that moment, retrace your steps back to the spot where you lost the path and look for it. It is still there, waiting for you. Close your eyes and feel the path with your feet. And walk, feeling the path with your feet as you go, to your chair. As you walk, feel the steps of others who are on the path with you. Feel how deep the path is, from those who went before you. Feel it with your feet. That is how you know where you are. Books won't tell you where the path is; you have to feel it in your body.
Then, do twenty seconds. Twenty seconds of focused, clear, drive-the-speed-limit kind of practice, no matter how slow, one thing at a time. Right-hand, left-hand, page. Rotate your attention: Right-Left-Page... Right-Left-Page... Right-Left-Page... Right-Left-Page... Then, do another twenty seconds, until you are up to five minutes. You may not get up to five minutes. But the goal is five minutes of focused practice, either all together or in pieces, that you feel good about. With children, you have to be "on" all the time, you can't take your eyes off them. If you can hang your guitar on the wall (where they can't get at it) and pull it down as you are walking by it sometimes, for just a minute or two (you will need a clock with a second hand to make this work) you increase the likelihood of not being abandoned by your first love. Five minutes is something that you can
I tell my kids, make a date with yourself, show up and do your five. Then, no matter what else happens, you will have succeeded. The next day, when you have more time, you won't go, "Oh, I didn't practice yesterday, this is going to be terrible (i.e. I'm such a bad person.)" No. You did your five and today you can do ten. But if you can't finish ten, at least you did your five. And if you want to do more than five, keep going. But at least you did your five. The secret to success is success.
The fact is, no teacher uses "a book". First of all, if they published a book with the technique outlined in it, step-by-step, no teacher would buy the book: their own technique is their stock-in-trade. On top of that, the reason we are stuck with "When the Saints" and "Beautiful Brown Eyes" is teachers will only use books with songs they know, the ones they
learned in their
lessons. Everyone on this forum learned from one of five books and they will each defend it to the death. We don't necessarily get the best people in the guitar teaching profession, you know. The kindest, though, perhaps.
What most teachers do is they ask you to buy a book and then they supplement it from their library and original materials. Every book has something to offer. They don't publish "bad" books. The problem with books is they usually contain just one idea, everything else is leading up to the idea and away from the idea. You have to read the book to find the idea. It could be thought of as a way to sell the idea, to make you think it was valuable. If you bought a book and it only had one page, would you feel like you got your money's worth? Would you? If I get one song from a book, I got my money's worth because that song will last my entire life.
If you were lucky enough to find a teacher who is willing to mentor you, you might consider giving yourself an early Christmas present. I gather that your instinct is to put all of your resources into your children and that guitar lessons are hard to justify, especially in today's world. But your children are going to grow up, they always do, and you might want to have something to show for your years -- although it is hard for the guitar to compete with the prospect of grandchildren. Still, if you are lucky enough to find someone in your area who has risen above the lessons-in-the-back-of-the-music-store, who will share their love of the guitar with you, you might mention the words "Do you have a sliding-scale?" to them. I sometimes do what I call a "trade for practice" (plus a little cash, for overhead) -- if you practice and I don't have to bug you to practice; and I can teach you all my best stuff knowing you will love it, too; and when you come back, you will have gotten to the next step, I will support your playing, too. I can't be the only one like this.
The other possibility is to get the series, "Royal Conservatory of Music Guitar Series" and march yourself through the curriculum. Lots of teachers will just assign page after page and their students play and play and play, very happy. You don't sound like you need someone to turn the page for you. It will be a few years before you "get your arms back" (enough to carry a guitar along with the kids and their stuff), maybe it's time to check into "the academy"?
I had a student in your situation. She could only practice when her son was taking a bath. She went through a two-hours-a-day practicing phase and the little boy was very happy to play in the tub while she practiced. He developed a thing about sharks. But, be careful with this, your children will begin to look like little white prunes and the neighbors will talk.
My teacher, Richard Provost, has very generously posted the text portions of his first two books on scale and arpeggio technique. He is a gentle fellow, very clear in his thinking. Perhaps that would be worth looking at, too. He takes you from open strings to the professional repertoire, not just another guitar book:
And, lastly, there is "the intimate solitude of the guitar", as Segovia called it. If we were in any other profession, we would be in a building filled with other people who do what we do, to cue us, to direct us, to affirm us, to show us the next step on the path. The guitar is one of the hardest instruments, right up there with orchestra conductor and concert pianist, because of the the high level of "personal leadership" that is expected of us. If I were an orchestra player, I would have a conductor to start me and stop me and bring me back in if I got lost, to show me what tempo, where the beat is, to write in the bowings, breathing and articulations, to tell me what phrasing and dynamics are expected of me, and so on -- you know, the 130 things that the conductor does. And then I would have someone sitting next to me doing the same thing as me. Someone I can peek at to see what I'm supposed to be doing; if I play a wrong note, I can catch it before it becomes apparent to the world. And if I get lost, they can play a little louder to cover for me until I get back in. As guitarists, we are expected to do all those jobs: start yourself, stop yourself and bring yourself back in when you get lost before anyone notices; cue yourself for entrances. And everyone expects you to smile even though you wish you were at home with your loved ones. And you don't even have someone to complain to, a convenient ear, someone else who is stuck there, too. There is nothing worse that being trapped in an elevator -- alone. That's where the forum comes in. Don't be a stranger.
This is a good question; deserves a good answer.
PS Best wishes for good health and happiness to you and yours.
Kevin Collins, Amherst, Mass, USA All rights reserved.